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The Great Eight



24.0 mile 38.6 kilometer loop
75% Singletrack


Ascent: 2,497' 761 m
Descent: -2,511' -765 m
High: 3,847' 1,173 m
Low: 2,459' 750 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 37% (20°)


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Map Key

A rollicking sampler of Pisgah riding.

J. Matt

Electric Mountain Bikes Not Allowed

Features Views

Sense of humor required.


This is a great mid-distance route including a long gated gravel climb, rocky rooty goat-track descents where you'll need to pick your line and control your speed, creek crossings, lung-buster climbs, rock gardens, and super-sketchy suspension bridges. In short, Pisgah.

Need to Know

FR 1206 can be gated in the winter. If you're not from the area or familiar with Pisgah give yourself the full day for this ride. You may encounter horses on South Mills River Trail (#133).

A unique Apres Velo choice in spring, summer, and fall for nosh and beverages is the Pisgah Inn (closed November-March). There's a new outdoor area with a take-out window, rocking chairs, and a world-class view of the forest you've just crushed. Great burgers, local brew, and reasonable prices considering.


Park off 1206 by Wolf Ford Horse Camp. Here might be the cleanest pit toilet in Pisgah. Head down South Mills River Road (gated sometimes) to Funneltop Mountain Road on the left. Turn left and start the climb.

It's steep to start but levels after the first mile or so. If you get a hankering, there're views of Looking Glass Rock behind you. Ride until the road ends and then go right on Horse Cove Gap Trail #325 to the right. Descend the rocks and roots until you hit Squirrel Gap Trail (#147). Go left for about 10 feet and look for Horse Cove Gap Trail #325 to continue off to the right.

Continue down the goat track of Horse Cove Gap Trail #325 until the trail merges with Cantrell Creek Trail. After a short additional bit of descending, Cantrell ends at South Mills River Trail (#133) (Cantrell was rerouted in 2019, and much of the lower portion merged with Horse Cove Gap - this route didn't change, but the trail names did). Go left on South Mills River Trail (#133) (which is actually just going straight) and enjoy a chance to recover except for the suspension bridges which are super sketchy. The second suspension bridge is best to avoid and just walk across the river because you're soaked by now anyway.

Begin a series of brief, short climbs and look for Mullinax off to the left. Climb until it merges with Squirrel Gap Trail (#147). This is a long, tough climb with some brief walking sections. Climb until you hit Laurel Gap and take a break. The section of Squirrel Gap Trail (#147) between here and Cantrell Creek is a rock garden and you'll work. Cross Horse Cove Gap Trail #325 and continue on Squirrel Gap Trail (#147) to the terminus at South Mills River Trail (#133).

Cross a not-so-sketchy suspension bridge at the bottom and begin a long mellow climb up South Mills River Trail (#133). Bear right where Buckhorn Gap Trail (#103) begins continuing on South Mills River Trail (#133). Continue to the end of South Mills River Trail (#133) and finish the ride back on South Mills River Road.

History & Background

There's some history sign at the bottom of Cantrell Creek.


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Aug 11, 2019
Mary Helen Brown
Gnarly roots. Took 4 hours.
Jul 14, 2019
J. Matt
So good. 28mi — 4h 30m
Jun 22, 2019
J. Matt
Great shape. Added a couple of pieces detailed in comments. 34mi — 4h 45m
Sep 1, 2018
25mi — 5h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 5 votes


  4.8 from 5 votes
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